Get to Know the Basic Terminology of Waterskiing

A young boy waterskiing
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Whether you're new to waterskiing or have been doing it for years, it's good to know the terminology of the sport. You'll be able to communicate better with other waterskiers, as well as the people who work in waterski equipment shops, plus coaches, drivers, and others in the sport. It will also make you a safer skier because you'll know what to look out for and how to describe it to others. The following are some of the most common terms used in waterskiing.

Waterskiing Equipment

  • Bevel: The rounded edge where the side of the waterski meets the base. The degree of the curve affects turning ability; the rounder it is, the more control you need to maintain.
  • Bindings: These boot-like platforms keep the skier's feet attached to the skis. Bindings are usually made of rubber with laces or straps to customize the fit.
  • Bridle: The Y-shaped rope that connects the skier's handle to the tow rope.
  • Buoy: Floating designation markers. In competitions, they are used to outline the course a waterskier must traverse.
  • Cut: In slalom waterskiing, the tow rope is shortened at specific lengths, called cuts.
  • Fin: Affixed perpendicular to the base of the ski, these help a skier control turns, just a rudder would on a boat.
  • Flex: The more flexible a ski is, the easier it is to carve turns, but the harder it is to maintain control in the choppy water. Waterskis are classified as having either soft, medium or a hard flex.
  • Handle The portion of the tow rope that the skier grips.
  • P.F.D.: Short for personal floatation device, also known as a lifejacket.
  • Pylon: The triangular metal structure that connects the tow rope to the rear of the boat.
  • Rocker: The curve of a ski's base. The more pronounced the rocker, the tighter the turn.
  • Shock tube: A cylindrical device that reduces tow rope recoil.
  • Towboat: The boar that pulls the skier through the water.
  • Tow rope: The rope that connects the skier to the pylon.
  • Wing: An adjustable tab on the side of a slalom ski, designed to help the skier control the turn. 

Waterskiing Techniques

  • Deepwater start: When the skier begins his or her run in the water, rising to an upright position as the boat accelerates.
  • Dock start: When the skier begins his or her run, standing on a dock or platform. This is less common in competition than a deepwater start.
  • Hot-dogging: Showing off your skills to others.
  • Kiteboarding: A form of wakeboarding that uses a kite, rather than a boat, to pull the rider.
  • Kneeboarding: A form of waterskiing that uses a single wide board rather than skis. The rider kneels on the board, rather than standing upright.
  • Late: A delayed lean into a turn during the slalom, making the turn harder to execute.
  • Off-side turn: When a skier turns in the direction opposite that of their leading foot. For example, if a skier leads with his right foot and turns left.
  • On-side turn: When a skier turns in the same direction as that of their leading foot. For example, if a skier leads with his right foot and turns right.
  • Pass: The successful completion of a slalom course.
  • Slalom: A waterskiing run where the skier must negotiate around a series of buoys laid out along the course. Similar to the slalom in Alpine skiing.
  • Spotter: This person sits behind the boat driver and watches the skier make sure he or she is skiing safely. The spotter relays communication between the skier and the driver.
  • Three event: Refers to the components of a waterskiing competition: slalom, trick skiing, and ski jumping.
  • Transition: Switching from one edge of the ski to the other.